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Mar 12, 2010 01:13 PM

"Organic" Maple Syrup?

A couple of weeks past my eye was drawn to a special on maple syrup - obviously making room for this year's coming product. We are talking a major-chain house brand here - 2 items side-by-side on the shelf differing only by their labels: one of them stated "organic" and carried a $2 premium for a purchase less than $10.

How is this possible? A producer typically does syrup as a sideline to general farming here in Canada - probably the same in the States, no?

The maples are not cultivated or managed, or are they?

They are not sprayed, fertilized or modified. The woodlot where I buy my syrup is older than me and older than pesticides.

Some claims cite purity in that the product is non-blended. What do we have if 2 organic syrups are blended?

Maple Syrup is a "found" food it seems to me with little or no industrial intervention. Or am I wrong?

How is the term "organic" justified and applied here?

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    1. According to the NY Times:

      ' "I guess you could call it a new marketing technique," Fran Sladyk, a forestry consultant at Butternut Mountain Farm, said in a phone conversation, "though it's a little more than that." The main difference is in an additive that is used to prevent the maple sap from foaming as it is being turned into syrup. Instead of a commercial defoamer, about one drop of which was used for every 80 gallons, or 300 liters, or so of sap, drops of organic safflower or canola oil are used instead.

      But several producers told me that the main difference between organic and nonorganic maple syrup is that the makers of the former pay for state inspections and licenses, which is one of the reasons organically certified maple syrup is more expensive than the noncertified kind. '

      1. More than a little maple syrup is produced as a sideline on dairy farms in Wisconsin and the northeastern states. To produce organic milk the whole farm must be certified as organic and so could legitimately produce organic maple syrup. Whether there would be any difference in practices for the sugar operation is doubtful. If people will pay a premium for the organic label, why shouldn't the farmers get a premium price? Their other costs tend to be higher than conventional farms.


          Here's a bit of information on organic maple syrup. I switched to organic syrup a few years ago when I read about the farmers using formaldehyde or other chemicals on the tap holes to keep them from closing up. There was an article in an issue of Gastronomica that claimed even though use of paraformaldehyde in maple farming was outlawed in the US and Canada, traces of it were still found in syrup purchased off grocery store shelves. I can't be sure if this is still the case today, but I'd rather spend $1-2 more and know I'm not consuming it with my pancakes.

          1. One way to avoid the confusion is to buy Maple Syrup produced in Vermont only. Producers there can not use any additives by law.